Let’s Be Brutally Honest About Self-Publishing

I will start by saying that self-publishing is not an exact process. There are a ton of successful methods used by a lot of different authors. The only thing that is concrete is that you are going to be constantly learning and adapting to changes in the field of publishing. You either learn, or fail. The choice is yours.

If you are easily offended by constructive criticism then you should probably stop reading because I am going to be blunt in this post. These are things that many people are not ready to hear. In fact, I have angered a lot of people in my life who asked me for my honest opinion, yet were not ready to hear it. Anyway, let’s get started.

Your First Draft Sucks.

I don’t even need to read it to tell you that a first draft is going to suck. I understand that you have probably put a lot of work into it. You poured your heart into this draft. Guess what? It still sucks; but that’s a good thing. How can spending months writing an 80,000 word draft that sucks be a good thing? It’s supposed to suck!

Don’t let it kill your excitement. Writing your draft is a huge deal but don’t let yourself fall into the same trap as many other beginners do. The hard work is not over at this point. This rough draft will need to be revised into a second draft, a third draft, and sometimes even a fourth draft. Never skip this process because one of two things will happen:

Either you will mistakenly believe that your first draft is an almost finished book so you might release a low-quality book. This is the number one reason why the majority of self-published books suck.


You will underestimate the work that needs to be put into the self-publishing process. It will depress you and cause you to give up.

So the bottom line is that writing a first draft is a huge step in the right direction, but it is far from a completed book.

Most Writing is in the Form of Editing.

Let me make one thing clear before I start. A writer should never try and edit as they write. Write the draft first, and then edit that draft about a half-dozen times! That about sums up the entire process. While it can be tempting to send your first draft to a professional editor, you should probably edit is at least once yourself before doing so. The goal should always be to get it as well-polished as you possibly can before sending it to the editor. However, always hire a professional editor to help you polish your book.

At the end of the day, the book is your prized possession. There is no one (and I mean NO ONE) who knows your book better than you. An editor will ensure that it meets the highest standards expected of readers but in the end, you’re the one responsible it. Sending a book full of easily fixable errors is a mistake. It might seem lazy for me to say this (since I am an editor) but let me explain why being lazy is a bad idea.

Let’s assume that you have written a science fiction novel and that there is a lot of made up terminology in the book. Even the most experienced editor will find it almost impossible to find every single mistake when it comes to made up words and terminology. An editor’s job is to give you a professional product and help you find hard to find mistakes, not memorize a made-up dictionary. So clean up the manuscript as much as possible before you send it to an editor. Revisions make up about 70% of the writing process for a book.

Don’t Trust Beta Readers

Beta readers have their place but are by no means 100% reliable. Don’t get me wrong. They are wonderful to use but you will need to take everything they say with a grain of salt. Let me give you an example. You finish writing your book and revise it several times so that it’s reasonably polished, then decide that you could use some initial feedback. You go out and find a few beta readers. Sounds great, right?

Maybe not?

First of all, there is no guarantee that a beta reader is going to fall into the “average reader” category – that label is a myth anyway since every genre has a specific audience. Beta readers all have individual opinions so they might have opinions that are not typical of other readers. So one of your beta readers might tell you to cut out a specific story arc and you end up cutting something that 99% of other readers would love. On the other hand, if several beta readers tell you to cut that arc then you might consider it. It’s all a confusing process.

When you use beta readers, you will have to weigh their recommendations. After all, they are not some magical reading gods who know what everyone in the world loves – although some may claim this label. Plus, you’re going to inevitably find yourself in the uncomfortable position of completely disagreeing with a particular beta reader’s feedback.

That’s perfectly normal and you should not feel guilty about it. After all, no one is closer to your book than you. Simply give them your thanks and move on. Beta readers are not always going to give you feedback that you’re going to implement. Self-publishing means that you get to make the ultimate decision on whose feedback you listen to and whose you ignore.

Beta readers are a great resource but never blindly let their opinion change the way you present your book.

Never Design Your Own Cover if You’re Not a Graphics Designer

If you’re not a graphics designer, artist, or otherwise art savvy person then never attempt to design your own book cover. It’s going to fall short of expectations.

Your book’s cover is going to be the first thing that a potential reader will see. If the cover sucks, then they are simply going to pass it over without a second thought. Keep in mind that your book will be surrounded by hundreds of other books. If you believe that you can get away with a crappy cover then you’re in for a rude awakening. Your cover must get the reader to grab your book (or click the link) in order to even read the description.

I use this expression a lot because people often say the exact opposite: a book is judged by its cover. First impressions are the most lasting ones and a book’s cover is the first impression that you make on a reader. Of course a book will be judged by its cover. If the cover sucks, then a reader’s mind will trigger an alert that screams “This book is going to suck!”

Hiring a graphics designer is expensive but if you are not confident enough in your book to invest in presenting it, then how could you expect a reader to invest in reading it? There are websites like Fiverr and Elance where you can find affordable cover designers.

At this point, I’ve already mentioned two areas where you need to invest money. If you notice, I keep using the word “invest” because that’s exactly what it is. Spending money on your book’s success is not an expense. Let’s look at this from a business standpoint.

Let’s say that you spend $250 on a cover and another $500 on an editor. That’s a total of $750. Some people would look at this like a lot of money to dump into a single book. However, let’s break it down.

Total Expenses = $750

Now let’s say that you sell your book on Amazon Kindle for $4.99, which is an optimal price for new authors. So at 70% royalties, you would receive $3.49 for every book sale. Assume that you sell an average of 3 books per day. Again, this is a very low number and you could achieve this number without any form of marketing at all. So let’s use it as a minimum. Now let’s expand our numbers here.

Total Expenses = $750

Total Income = $10.48 per day (3 book sales per day)

Total Income 30 Days = $314

Using these lowball numbers – and I mean very lowball numbers – then you would make your investment back within 2 and a half months. After that, your book will be generating $314 a month in passive income.

Keep in mind that I am not guaranteeing that your book will absolutely sell at this level – it could be much higher or even slightly lower. My point is that an investment in your book could generate a lasting stream of income. From a business standpoint, this would be a low risk investment.

You Will Have to use Social Media

You’d be amazed at how often I hear people who are writing a book claim that they will have nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter. After which, I always follow up by telling them that if they want to achieve any kind of success, then they don’t really have a choice. That’s the point when they either mumble something while storming off, or create their first Facebook account.

My point here is that social media is an extremely important part of the self-publishing process. As more books are released, it will get even harder to get yours noticed. So social media will become your best friend. You will need a way to communicate with readers.

I recommend that you eventually reach out to other areas on the internet to find readers but social media is the absolute best place to start your journey. It’s safe to say that having a Facebook and Twitter will put you ahead of half the self-published authors out there.

You Will Have to Be a People Person

You cannot be a solitary person and an author at the same time. The combination simply does not work. This is true with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Authors must interact with people. They have to get out there and meet new people, engage in conversations, and be willing to contribute to the world. That doesn’t mean that you should walk down a busy street and ask everyone to “buy your book.” It just means you should interact, answer questions, have things on hand to give away at all times. This can be bookmarks or business cards.

There is a massive online community of readers. I guarantee that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to read your book. I don’t care what the topic is about, there is a market for it. Befriend these people and be open with them. Tell them what you’re willing to give (i.e. your book) and what you want to receive in return (reviews, critiques, etc.). Some fellow authors will even be willing to exchange reviews with you. However, how can you find any of these people if you’re being a hermit?

Never Set the Bar Too High

Most writers do not get rich from their book. Sure, there are a ton of “rags-to-riches” stories out there and this could be you but you should never expect to become rich. A writer’s number one goal should always be to help readers by either teaching them a specific skill or by entertaining them. The goal is not to get their money.

Be realistic and never believe that you’re going to become a mega-millionaire overnight. Your goal is to build yourself as an authority and not to get rich. Wealthy people do not set out to get rich – wealth is just a by-product of their efforts to create a value contribution to the world. Chances are that if you become a huge success then it will happen over time.

If you read this post until the end then I know you have a thick enough skin to be able to achieve a high level of success. If you keep these important tips in mind then you’re going to give yourself the absolute best chance of success. Always remember above all else that if you create something that holds true value to the world then you are going to make money from self-publishing.

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